Mnangagwa, in a recent interview with the New African magazine, claimed the former late Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith confided to him and Mugabe that Nkomo and Zanu founder, Ndabaningi Sithole lost the elections because they did not represent the interests of the black majority.
Nkomo and Sithole participated in the elections under PF Zapu and Zanu Ndonga tickets respectively and lost to Mugabe, in elections where they alleged electoral fraud.
Mnangagwa told the New African magazine that Smith, in a meeting held in Mount Pleasant after the elections, said Mugabe won the polls because he was a principled leader compared to the two.
“In 1980, just after the elections in Zimbabwe, but before Mugabe, who was PM-elect was inaugurated, we were at a place in Mount Pleasant in Harare when Mugabe said he wanted to talk to Ian Smith, the outgoing PM and the generals. I was then Mugabe’s personal assistant and head of security . . . Once inside the room, Smith said: “Mr Mugabe, before you speak, I want to say something.” Mugabe said: “Ok, go on.” Then Smith said: “Mr Mugabe do you know why you won this election?” Mugabe said: “Why?’” Mnangagwa told the New African magazine.
He added: “Smith said: ‘Me, as Ian Smith, I represent white interests and I have been championing white interests, but I have been able to call other African leaders to discuss issues with them. People like (the late James) Chikerema, Joshua Nkomo, Ndabaningi Sithole, Chief Chirau of Zvimba and others.”
“All these lost elections because the African people of this country have realised that these leaders do not only stand for the interests of the black people, they can also be swayed by me to represent white interests. But you have not met me. You have refused to meet me. So the people know that you are the only one who represents their interests. So Mr Mugabe, you should be grateful to me for not having met you.”
Mnangagwa was responding to a question on what he thought had kept Mugabe in power since 1980.
The VP added: “. . . You see, I am telling you this story to say that President Mugabe has survived because he is a principled leader. He makes sure, eh, champions the interests of the people.
“So his people, the majority in this country, stand with him in good and bad times, and he does not desert his people. This is why he has survived. That is the secret.”
Following his claim that Nkomo, one of the founders of the nationalist movement, represented white interests, Mnangagwa is unlikely to win any friends in the south western parts of the country, where his support is shaky due to his alleged role in the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s, which claimed an estimated 20 000 lives.
Mnangagwa’s claims were likely to be met with scepticism, as Nkomo was rewarded with the nickname, Father Zimbabwe for his role in the country’s fight for independence.
In 1978, Nkomo met with Smith after a meeting of Frontline States, where he demanded a government to the liking of the Patriotic Front — Zanu and Zapu — and an end to the internal settlement and that Mugabe would have to be part of any agreement, according to a report from The Blade, an American newspaper.
Since his appointment as Vice-President, Mnangagwa has claimed Zapu leaders wanted him killed, an accusation the revived party’s leader, Dumiso Dabengwa has strenuously denied.